by J Stockard Pro Tyer Luke Stacy, Virginia Beach, VA. Find Luke on Instagram.
The Grey Fox dry fly is a classic Catskill pattern developed by Preston Jennings to imitate a wide range of mayflies that the avid angler is likely to encounter while out on the water. I mainly tie this pattern in size fourteen along with an occasional size sixteen but can only assume this pattern tied slightly larger would effectively cover some other larger mayfly species. Below is a materials list and a step by step instruction of how I like to tie my Grey Fox’s.
Materials Needed to Tie the Grey Fox Fly
Hook: Standard Dry Fly Hook (I like mine to be 1X long personally)
Thread: 8/0 Tan Uni Thread
Wings: Natural Mallard Flank
Hackle: Grizzly and Ginger Hackle
Tail: Ginger Hackle (CDL is a good substitute if spade is not available)
Body: Cream colored red fox fur.
Grey Fox Fly Tying Instructions
Step 1: After securing your hook in your vise, start your tying thread two eye lengths behind the hook eye. Begin taking thread wraps rearward until about the middle 50% mark of the hook shank. Trim the tag end of your tying thread and begin taking thread wraps back up to your starting point of two eye lengths behind the eye of the hook.
Step 2: Select two mallard flank feathers who have relatively even tips and are similar in size. Take both feathers and face them so the natural bend of the feathers is facing away from each other. Be sure to align the tips of the feathers during this step as this will ensure your wings and symmetrical during the tie in process. Measure the wings to be a whole length of the hook (the very front of the hook eye all the way to the back bend of the hook). Once you have the correct wing length tie in both wings with a few tight thread wraps and then trim the butt ends at a very shallow angle and cover the trimmed ends with more thread wraps. TIP: Cutting the wing’s butt ends at a very shallow angle that is almost horizontal with the hook shank will create the taper you want for the abdomen of the fly. Work your thread to in front of the wings and place several close thread wraps directly in front of the wings (at the base). This step helps prop the wings up to a more perpendicular position. To complete the standing up process of the wings, take your tying thread and make “X” wraps between the wings (feathers). At this point you should have two separate clumps of wing fibers and you can make figure 8 wraps utilizing thread tension to stand up the wings so that they are close to being perpendicular to the hook shank. TIP: Remember that after you stand one side of the wing up with figure 8 wraps, before you transition to the next wing you need to make a thread wrap around the hook shank to “save your work” or maintain the tension you just applied on the thread.
Step 3: Once the wings are tied in, move your thread so it hangs directly over the hook’s barb or where the barb would be if you are using a barbless model hook. Take 10-12 tailing fibers and tie them in and move your tying thread slightly up towards the hook eye and trim the butt ends of the tailing fibers at an angle that will maintain the taper you created in the last step. Cover the remaining butt ends with thread wraps and work your thread back down to right above the barb again.
Step 4: Using the cream-colored underfur from a red fox hide, make a thin dubbing noodle on your tying thread and dub all the way up the shank of the hook leaving a little space behind the wing for your hackle wraps. NOTE: If the body was tapered correctly with the cuts made on the wing and tailing material, a thin and even dubbing noodle should be sufficient. If not, you may have to taper your dubbing noodle to compensate for an uneven thread base.
Step 5: Collect one grizzly rooster feather and one ginger rooster feather sized to the hook. NOTE: The size of hackle is only true to the size of the hook on standard dry fly hooks. Longer shank hooks such as a 1X or 2X length would require slightly larger hackle. Tie in both of the feathers behind the wings of the fly and after tying in the stems of the hackle, move your thread to right behind the eye. Wrap the first hackle three times behind the wing, leaving small gaps between wraps (to allow the second hackle space to lay) and then two or three wraps of the same hackle in front of the wings and tie off that hackle feather and trim off the excess. Next, wrap the second hackle through the first hackle wrapped. The stem of the second hackle should lay in the gaps that the stem of first hackle left. Ideally you want two or three wraps of the second hackle both behind and in front as well. Once the second feather is tied off, trim the excess of the feather off and whip finish.
Optional Step: Take your thumb nail and pointer finger nail and push the whip finish knot back to allow a small space between the whip finish knot and hook eye. Catskill flies were traditionally tied using a turle knot and many of the classic Catskill fly tyers intentionally left this space behind the hook eye for this reason.